Fat boy swim ISBN: 9781405202398
Published by Egmont, 2003
Jimmy Kelly is clinically obese. At school he is bullied mercilessly and viciously, and at home his mum and Aunt Pol encourage his talent for cooking. Often binging to satisfy a hunger that is not only physical but also emotional, Jimmy is a sad and unhappy 14 year old. Nightmares involving a swimming pool and a shadowy figure haunt his hours, and there is little in life to look forward to except Friday nights and cooking for Aunt Pol, to whom he is close. When his self-esteem is at an all-time low, he encounters Father Joseph (GI Joe to the boys in the Catholic school) who coaches football and has been one of the people who made life hard for Jjimmy. But GI Joe is a dark horse. He understands Jimmy better than he does himself, and without mollycoddling or feeling sorry for him, he begins to exert a subtle influence. Jimmy has 'swimmers shoulders' and Father Joseph is convinced he can be a fine swimmer. As he learns to swim and gains confidence, the fat begins to turn to muscle, and while Jimmy will never be slim, he learns to use his weight properly. A deftly drawn romance enters the picture too, delicate and quite lovely, and we finally learn startling facts about Jimmy's family. This is a fine novel. The characterizations are just about perfect, and Jimmy's feelings about his obesity and the horrible bullying he experiences are all too realistically drawn. A tour de force!